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Which Interview Answer Clichés Drive Employers Crazy?

By Matt Krumrie

Clichéd responses run rampant in interviews. What clichés drive employers and interviewers crazy, and why? We take a look at some below.

David Waring, co-founder of Fit Small Business, a website that provides small business reviews and recommendations, says job seekers who respond with these clichéd answers to basic questions are most annoying:

  1. I’m a fast learner.

  2. I’m a hard worker.

  3. I’m a team player.

“The problem with these three things and what they share in common is that they basically say nothing,” says Waring, who, previously served as a top executive at Forex Capital Markets LLC, which he joined as an initial employee and grew to a team of over 700.

Waring elaborated on each:

1. I’m a fast learner

“When it comes to fast learners, I often find that people who use this answer don’t know much about the role they’re interviewing for,” says Waring. “Being a fast learner means ‘I’ll sit here and wait for you to show me how to do it.’ There are way too many candidates that go to a job thinking it’s like a class and will be taught what to do. Show me that you’ve done some self-teaching, tell me about a situation where you had to learn something new and how you went about doing so. That’s how I’ll know you are a fast learner.”

2. I’m a hard worker

For hard workers, show me how you are a hard worker. Did you put yourself through college, work multiple jobs at a time, or start your own venture? Prove it to with examples of past situations and how you handled them.

3. I’m a team player

If you’re a team player, tell me about a situation where you had to work with a team. What was it for and how did being a team player help the situation? Even if you don’t have direct work experience, give me a similar experience that has some relevance. It can even be from a class project, where you had to work within a group.

4. What’s your proudest achievement/accomplishment?

The common response to this is another annoying cliché:

My family.

“We’re talking about work here,” says Peg Newman of Sanford Rose Associates, an executive search firm. “Keep to the point of our meeting. You create a full stop in the interview if you bring your family into the interview from this question.”

5. Responding to the “tell me about yourself" with a life story

This isn’t the time to share your life story, says Career Coach Bethany Wallace. What do they care about? “They care about what is relevant to the company, to the position, to your work background and future career goals,” says Wallace. “Briefly explain who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Keep it simple and avoid sharing personal information which might give away information employers can’t legally ask you.”

6. Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?

Responding to the “Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?” question with “Why, working for you, of course” response is also cliché.

“Employers understand that you’re a human being with hopes and dreams and goals,” says Wallace. “They want to hear about your future career plans. Focus on what you hope to gain from your employment with the company you’ve interviewing with and how you hope to contribute to that company’s goals or overall mission.”

7. Are clichéd answers the result of clichéd questions?

“We try to ask very detailed questions in our interview process but see these answers plenty of times,” says Waring. “So I don’t think it’s the questions. But if an interviewer is asking cliché questions, it means they don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to interviewing. If you ask cliché questions, expect cliché responses. You need to ask questions specific to the role or you’ll end up hiring the wrong candidate.”

Matt Krumrie

Matt Krumrie is a former contributor to ZipRecruiter. He is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via, connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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